We Carry the Fire

Family and Citizenship as Spiritual Calling

Richard A. Hoehn

Feb/2021, 248 Pages, PAPERBACK, 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN-13: 9781640653825



We Carry the Fire describes a social and political spirituality defined by actions that save families, civilization, and the planet.

These actions, based on values articulated in religious congregations, result in tangible outcomes in the real world: people live instead of die, democracy is strengthened, nature is restored, and the human spirit flourishes.

The author shows how an action-spirituality is different from me- and escapist-spiritualities. Spiritual meaning is found by working in solidarity with people around the world to love our neighbors, as well as those who aren’t our neighbors, as ourselves.

As congregations are struggling to adjust to contemporary realities, Hoehn brings the passion and knowledge of a pastor, academic, author, activist, and grassroots organizer down to earth in real time.

Read an excerpt

RICHARD A. HOEHN is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the author of Up From Apathy (Abingdon) and more than sixty scholarly and popular booklets, articles, and reviews. He was the director of the Bread for the World Institute, an associate professor of Church in Society at Brite Divinity School, and has worked as a grassroots organizer, speaker, and consultant for non-governmental organizations around the world.

"A smart, thoughtful, inclusive case for reevaluating spiritual priorities."
Kirkus Reviews

“Richard A. Hoehn inspires us to ground our spiritual convictions in ‘citizen-action’ to improve our human condition. He gently shows us why the two must go hand in hand to uplift all of humankind given our incontrovertible interdependence. Dr. Hoehn’s pressing message for all with shared spiritual and humanitarian beliefs is to take heed that the time for action is now!”
—Shohreh Kermani-Peterson, former Bread for the World Institute colleague

“This book is informative, inspirational, and persuasive. All who read it will discover that spirituality pertains to the vast variety of personal, social, political, and religious activities aimed at improving the conditions of life for people everywhere. This book is so well written that readers will find it difficult to put it down.”
—Peter J. Paris, professor emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary

"Richard Hoehn shares the rich wisdom he has garnered through a lifetime of service and advocacy . . . a marvelous resource for adult education in congregations, devotional reading for pastors and laypeople, common readings for those engaged in community service, practical education for seminarians, and inspirational reading for all Christians . . ."
—Rev. Dr. James B. Martin-Schramm, professor of religion, Luther College     




Part I / Fire Spirituality

1. The Fire We Carry, Carries Us

Embers, Flames, Extinguishers

Grassroots on Fire

The Fire Kisses My Soul

O Beautiful for Spacious Skies

Nature Doesn’t Give a Damn

“I Am Somebody, Black and Proud”

Embodied Spirituality

The Seven Ms of Spirituality

“the meaning of life”: More Than 42

Those Who Give Light

2. The Kindling and the Sparks

Gobbling Nothingness

Horatio Alger Had Lucky Bootstraps

Moral Grounding

Enlarging Goodness Is a Spiritual Calling

They Called Me Theirs, but I Hold Them

Hinges of History

We Are Called to Act

The Silent Seduction of Social Media

Part II / Citizen Spirituality

3. We Are the End Game

Power Is an Essential Part of Spirituality

We Advocated Changes




Power as the Ability to Act

A Mayor’s Thoughts on Power, by Jim Rurak

Politics Is the Oxygen of Community Life

The Declaration of Independence Was Also

a Declaration of Dependence

People Avoid Politics

Our Soul Brought Us Here

Nine Kitchen Matches

4. By the People

Politics Is a Multiplier

Kathy and Jim Win for People with Disabilities

Neighborhood Organizing, by Patricia E. Myers

Faith-Based Community Organizing

The Spirit of Goddess Was with Us

A Suicide Note from Democracy

Part III / Family as Social Spirituality

5. We Are Crowdsourced

Life Is a Spiritual Mystery

Spiritual Mystery in Social Encounters

Alone with God

No Hermits Here

We Gift One Another

The Blessed Remains of the Dead

We Are Your Symphony

E-Mail Sonnet for My Mother

A Reply from My Mother

6. Our Souls Overlap

From Me to We

“And on That Night, Only People Were Precious”

In the Plaza

We Are All Family

Family Values

Heart Friends Help Us Grow

Spiritual Identity Communities

Si Son de Otro Linage

I Still Don’t Know His Name

The More “Other,” the More We Can Learn

Shall We Gather in the Kitchen?

We Walk with the Wind

The Sun Rises Like Fire

Part IV / Congregations as Social Spirituality

7. Spirituality with Benefits

Doubt, Damage, and Decline

They Sang “Jesus Loves Me” Then Slit the Throat of a Water Buffalo

Admit the Harm We Have Done

Seventy Percent Is Good Enough

Why Do People Attend?

Supportive Communities

Servants under the Radar

One Pale Blue Drop, Falling

8. Congregations Curate, Celebrate, and Communicate the Human Drama

Memory and Meaning

Moral Socialization

Ethical Guidelines

A Place to Celebrate Life with Others

Congregations and Politics

Hell Yes, at Dinnertime

The Firebird

9. Spiritual Disciplines

The Children Were Kinetic Art

The Discipline of Stopping and Noting

The Discipline of Changing Interpretation

Moral and spiritual interpretation

Political interpretation

The Discipline of Altering Emotions

The Discipline of Changing How We Act

Nurturing and caring



Charitable politics

The Secret

Spiritual Disciplines of Public Life


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  • Grassroots
  • social justice
  • climate change
  • activism
  • community organizing

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